Johnny Depp staff defend actor in London libel trial

London (AFP) –


Employees of Hollywood star Johnny Depp during his rocky marriage to ex-wife Amber Heard defended the actor in a UK court Tuesday on day six of his libel lawsuit trial.

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" hero is suing the publisher and executive editor of Britain's tabloid newspaper The Sun over a 2018 story that branded him a "wife beater".

Depp, 57, denies abusing actress Amber Heard -- now 34 and the global face of French cosmetics firm L'Oreal -- during a two-year marriage that ended in a messy 2017 divorce and several lawsuits.

She has claimed he was violent towards her on at least 14 occasions in various places around the world.

But Malcolm Connolly, who has worked for Depp and his family as a bodyguard for about 16 years, told London's High Court he had never seen the actor hit Heard.

"I wouldn't tolerate any man striking a woman. No matter who he was, I just wouldn't tolerate that," Connolly, a former prison officer, said.

"Not even if he's my boss. I don't care if he's the pope."

Connolly said he had seen Heard hit Depp "in Australia and in Los Angeles" but added that she had not been held responsible publicly at the time to protect her.

"The usual victim pattern is to protect the abuser for some reason," Connolly commented.

Meanwhile Samantha McMillen, who has worked as Depp's stylist since 2002 and also as Heard's during the couple's relationship, told the court she had "never noticed" injuries to the actress.

"I noticed nothing but her beautiful skin," she said of a particular occasion in May 2016 when Heard claimed she had been left visibly bruised by Depp.

The actor launched legal action after The Sun ran a story calling him a "wife-beater".

It came after he had already publicly denied domestic violence, and Depp claims it has led to "significant reputational damage" to his career and personally.

The High Court trial is due to last three weeks.